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Gardening guru Dan shares his expert advice

23 November 2018

We asked Dan, Landscape designer on TVNZ1's HOMEmade to share his top three tips for creating low maintenance gardens.

Dan Mackay

Landscape designer, HOMEmade

Get to know resident HOMEmade landscape designer, Dan Mackay, who shares the inside scoop on how he tackles new landscape projects.

Where do you find inspiration for landscape projects?

I always have a good look around the area I’m working with first as that’s where I draw inspiration from. If you have a view from your property, then you should always work to enhance that view through your landscape design concept. Or if you have a big beautiful tree then you can work with that to make it a statement in your garden. If you don’t have anything existing to work with and you’re trying to create the magic yourself, that’s when you can use things like sculptures and planting.

What’s the best starting point when embarking on a garden makeover?

I start with planning out the overall vision for the project and then draw up a plan to bring the vision to life. It’s important to work from a plan for the duration of your project. I generally spend about 3 weeks planning a few different options for one project. But, I update and change those plans along the way if needed. A good solid plan will always be the best starting point, but it’s okay if that plan changes slightly along the way.

What are your top three tips for creating beautiful, low maintenance gardens?

  1. Planting in the boundary to create privacy from your neighbours
  2. Large open grass space is great to tire out the kids and ticks that low maintenance box
  3. Create shade within your backyard in a seated patio area

What’s your own garden at home like?

It’s a work in progress. I’ve got a shipping container that I’ve converted into an office. We’re also redoing our driveway which will be made from skate park concrete as all of my kids skate. With five kids it’s also important to have areas where they can play, so we’ve put a bit of emphasis in making our garden fun - we have swings hanging off our pergolas and climbing pegs up poles. There’s also a halfpipe that I built for my kids to use. But aside from the fun parts, I’ve also recently created a wet-poured concrete wall as a bit of a feature that has some tropical plants across the top.

What’s your favourite thing about being involved with HOMEmade?

I really love meeting the kids and the families that we work with and do these makeovers for. They are all such deserving, beautiful, nice people. The work that we do for these families is a challenge, it’s a quick turnaround and we have to work really fast to get it all complete, but it’s really fun and rewarding.

About the expert

After working in landscaping in London and Sydney, Dan came back to Auckland to study horticulture, then landscape design and construction. He has 15 years’ experience and has built up a successful landscaping company, Ministry of Ground. He has a crew of five children who keep him levelled and motivate him to work hard. Dan's knack for repurposing unwanted items and turning them into something special, plus knowing his Begonias from his Gladioli, make him a real asset to the HOMEmade crew.

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How to create a beautiful garden that doesn't cost the earth

About to embark on a new landscaping project? We asked HOMEmade landscape designer, Dan Mackay for his top tips to provide you with inspiration, along with some practical advice that will keep your wallet happy!